On September 20, 1973, more than 40 million people around the globe tuned in to watch Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs battle it out on a tennis court in
King’s victory over Riggs came on the cusp of the newly instated Title IX, a groundbreaking law that created more opportunities for women in the . The law impacted everything from increased female admittance into law and medical schools to more sports participation for girls and women, and also guaranteed that male and female teachers would receive equal pay.
The tennis match not only earned women athletes more respect, it helped buoy the self-esteem of women and girls everywhere by showing they could accomplish what they set their minds to.
Thirty-three years after President Richard Nixon signed Title IX into law, Lake Highlands resident Karen Blumenthal released her new book, “Let Me Play: The Story of Title IX”.
“I had been very interested in Title IX as a teenager, and it’s very much a part of the Women’s Movement,” says Blumenthal, who has been a reporter and editor with the Wall Street Journal for the better part of 20 years. “It opened a lot of doors; it’s not just about sports.”
Most girls these days probably can’t imagine life before Title IX — a life where college was often deemed unnecessary, athletics were unladylike, and equal treatment unheard of.
While Title IX was sweeping in, affecting the lives of women and girls everywhere, the effect it had on women’s sports is what stood out most for Blumenthal as a child growing up prior to the law’s passage.
“I really wanted to play basketball, but there was no place to play besides my driveway,” she says.
“That was really frustrating.”
Researching the history of the law proved more challenging than she had anticipated.
“Looking for the history was a lot harder than I thought it would be,” she says. “In the ’80s and ’90s, it was more controversial, so there was more written about it than there was in the ’70s.”
Among her sources was Casper Weinberger, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, who announced the first rules of Title IX in 1975. The Dallas Public Library also tracked down books with essays and articles for her.
This isn’t Blumenthal’s first foray into writing books aimed at young people. Her first book, “Six Days in October,” which describes the 1929 stock market crash, also was written for young people.
“I wanted to find a way to combine things that I knew a lot about with things that I felt kids needed to know about. [The stock market crash] is a very important subject,” she says.
While more women are in the spotlight through athletics and politics, inspiring girls to follow their lead, there are still improvements to be made in women’s rights, Blumenthal says.
“This is the kind of book that moms can share with their kids, both boys and girls,” says Blumenthal, who, with husband Scott McCartney, has two teenage daughters of her own.
“Kids may not be aware of the changes that have been made. I feel that it’s really important to understand history.”